What Are Problems With Consumer Cellular ( Ways To Fix Them)

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Is Consumer Cellular a good cell phone service? If yes, how good is it compared to T-Mobile or Verizon? And if not, what are the problems with Consumer Cellular I should know about before joining?

If you’re looking for a cheap phone on a high-priority network, Consumer Cellular is a great option. From as low as twenty bucks, you get unlimited talk and text, plus high-speed data that doesn’t slow down during congestion.

Like any other phone provider, though, Consumer Cellular has some drawbacks you should know before joining. In this guide, we’ll be looking at these problems and how you can overcome or survive them.

Consumer Cellular as a Cell Phone Provider

Consumer Cellular is one of the hundreds of cell phone providers here in the US. It’s what we call a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), as it doesn’t have its own towers. Instead, the provider has partnered with Major Carriers that have network towers to resell their service.

At the time of writing, the network Consumer Cellular uses is AT&T for native coverage. The MVNO also had a network deal with T-Mobile.

Nonetheless, in 2023, Consumer Cellular sent a message to the users on T-Mobile-compatible SIMs to switch to the AT&T option. So, all the subscribers will have their service through AT&T towers.

Does Consumer Cellular dropping the T-Mobile network affect coverage? In a way, yes, the coverage of Consumer Cellular will not be as extensive as before. But even when it was AT&T and T-Mobile, your Consumer Cellular phone could only use one network.

Problems With Consumer Cellular
Problems With Consumer Cellular

Another thing worth mentioning is that Consumer Cellular is a postpaid phone service. I always thought it was prepaid like most MVNOs. But a customer rep recently wrote me, “Consumer Cellular is not a prepaid provider.” You’ll receive the monthly bill like other utility services: after the end of the billing cycle.

Speaking of the bills, Consumer Cellular phone plans are cheaper with autopay. If you disable autopay, your bill increases by $5.

In addition to the autopay savings, Consumer Cellular offers all members of AARP a 5% discount. Thus, bringing the lowest plan under $20 (before taxes and other surcharge fees).

What are the Problems with Consumer Cellular Today?

Now, there are about six problems with the Consumer Cellular service currently. They are not what we’d call threatening problems, as you can still use your service. But they may inconvenience the way you use your phone.

Problem 1: Consumer Cellular Performs Credit Check

The very first problem with Consumer Cellular is that they perform a credit check when joining. Being a postpaid service, this is normal in determining if you’re creditworthy.

Of course, Consumer Cellular only performs the soft credit check that has no negative effect on your credit file. However, how your credit history appears could affect your approval for a service.

Problem 2: Consumer Cellular Upgrade your phone plan Automatically

As with other postpaid phones, Consumer Cellular will calculate your monthly usage at the end of a billing cycle. If you happen to drain all your data bundles early, the MVNO automatically upgrades you to a higher plan tier. Then, your bill for that month will be for the initial plan and the upgraded one.

I have seen a handful of people complain about this involuntary “upgrade” of their service. However, Consumer Cellular has clearly stated on their website it’s what they do. They claim the idea is to help you make the most of your phone “with absolutely no overage fees”.

Problem 3: Consumer Cellular has no free roaming in Canada & Mexico

Sadly, yes, Consumer Cellular phone plans include allowances for ONLY domestic use. They don’t cover roaming in Canada and Mexico as its carrier network, AT&T.

Before trying to excuse Consumer Cellular as an MVNO, MVNOs Visible and Cricket Wireless have free roaming in Canada and Mexico. The two have this roaming feature on the unlimited plans, which costs about the same amount as Consumer Cellular.

Problem 4: The Consumer Cellular Unlimited Plan has Capped High-Speed Data

Like any other phone provider, Consumer Cellular has an unlimited plan as the highest tier of its service subscription. Unfortunately, the “Unlimited plan” here is not truly unlimited. It starts you off with 50GB of high-speed browsing, then drops to lower 512Kbps (3G) speeds.

If you don’t have home WiFi or you’re a heavy data user, Consumer Cellular may not be an ideal option. The reason is that 3G data speeds are only enough for opening emails and light text-based websites or mobile apps.

Note: Consumer Cellular offers Unlimited 3G data on only the unlimited plan. If you hit your data cap in the other plans, the carrier automatically upgrades you to a higher data plan.

Problem 5: Consumer Cellular has no coverage in all places

Consumer Cellular is now using only AT&T towers for native coverage- unless the company decides to renew its contract with T-Mobile.

Of course, AT&T is the best GSM network on 4G LTE, with coverage in urban and rural areas. But there are places where T-Mobile is the only available cellular network, meaning Consumer Cellular will have problems with reception.

What Are Problems With Consumer Cellular
What Are Problems With Consumer Cellular

AT&T also has way less 5G+ coverage than T-Mobile. And this means you may be stuck with Consumer Cellular on only 4G LTE.

Problem 6: Consumer Cellular Only Sells Carrier-Locked Devices

Consumer Cellular has a retail department where you can purchase phones, smartwatches, or tablets. The carrier even has an in-house shop now and pay later program to help finance the high-end phones you can’t afford upfront.

However, Consumer Cellular only sells devices locked to its network. Thus, you’ll have a problem using that new iPhone 15 or Samsung Galaxy S23 on another wireless network.

How to Address the Various Problems with Consumer Cellular Phone Service

Solution for the Problem of Credit Check

As was mentioned, the reason Consumer Cellular performs credit checks is to determine your creditworthiness. Besides, you’ll be using your phone on credit and pay later.

If you’re worried about your poor credit score, don’t. Consumer Cellular rarely declines applications, as credit checks aren’t the only parameters they use to determine eligibility.

Once you apply, the phone provider will also check your employment history and level of income. If the two are solid, you definitely will qualify for a Consumer Cellular phone plan.

Alternatively, you can apply for your Consumer Cellular phone with the details of another member of your family. If this relative (or friend) is already a customer of Consumer Cellular, he can add you to his account.

Solution for the Problem of Consumer Cellular Upgrading Your Phone Plan

The best solution here is to first make sure you choose a Consumer Cellular phone plan that suits your data usage. If you have but still get upgraded, Consumer Cellular usually doesn’t downgrade plans automatically. You’ll have to log in to your service account and downgrade to the preferred phone plan manually.

Solution for the Problem of Consumer Cellular Roaming in Canada & Mexico

If you’d like to continue using your Consumer Cellular phone while traveling to Canada or Mexico, enable international roaming feature. The carrier requires you to enable the feature at least fourteen (14) days before leaving the US.

Sadly, enabling the international roaming feature on a Consumer Cellular phone isn’t something you can do yourself. It requires you to contact Consumer Cellular customer support at (888) 345-5509.

As for the cost, the Consumer Cellular International roaming rates range between:

  • $0.06 – $0.58 per talk minute
  • $0.06 – $0.58 per text message sent/ received
  • $0.06 – $0.58 per MB of data used to get online

If you don’t want the extra roaming charges on your bill, Consumer Cellular offers Wi-Fi calling free of charge. Or else connect your phone to WiFi and use free communication tools like WhatsApp, Viber, et cetera.

Solution for the Problem of Consumer Cellular Capped Unlimited Plan

First, the 50GB Consumer Cellular offers on the Unlimited plan are a lot of data for many people. However, it’s not enough for someone who streams HD videos or downloads and uploads large files daily.

The mobile data on your Consumer Cellular phone should be for only when away from your home (or work) Wi-Fi. When away, you should also be on the lookout for secure public WiFi hotspots and use them instead of your data.

For instance, Xfinity and Spectrum Internet have millions of WiFi hotspots spread out across the country. Many public joints (eateries, malls, department stores) also tend to have free WiFi access.

Solution for the Problems with Consumer Cellular having Poor coverage

Is AT&T the only decent network in your region that has weak reception? You can keep your Consumer Cellular phone and use either of the hacks we have to boost your wireless signal.

The first of these hacks is to get a phone compatible with Consumer Cellular on all the primary and secondary bands. If possible, choose a phone from a recognized brand that has a strong cellular modem. Say 5G phones, consider a device that supports up to 5G+ on mmWave (band N260) or at least 5G-Midband (band N77).

Also, you could purchase a cell phone signal booster and mount it on your building or car. The best signal booster is for the single carrier, offering up to 100 dB amplification.

Solution for the Problem with Consumer Cellular Carrier-Locked Devices

If you’d like to use your phone from Consumer Cellular on another carrier network, unlock it first. Consumer Cellular doesn’t unlock devices automatically, as we see with other service providers.

So, you’ll have to call customer care number 1-800-686-4460 and request for your device to be unlocked.

Before they can unlock your device, though, Consumer Cellular provides that:

  1. The device MUST be paid in full
  2. Your device has no red flags- i.e. not reported stolen or lost
  3. You have had the device active for at least six months, and your account is in good standing.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Why is my Consumer Cellular phone not working in Mexico?

The first reason your Consumer Cellular phone may not be working in Mexico is because you didn’t enable international roaming. In their terms and conditions, Consumer Cellular provides you should enable international roaming feature at least two weeks before leaving the US.

Second, roaming with your Consumer Cellular phone in Mexico is not guaranteed in all places. It’s only available in areas of its partner networks, just like in Canada and other countries.

What are the pros of Consumer Cellular phone service?

The seven best pros of Consumer Cellular phone service are:

  • It offers prioritized data
  • Has amazing device discounts
  • You can add a smartwatch plan
  • Includes free calls to Mexico/ Canada
  • Supports mobile hotspot & tethering
  • Has an interest-free device financing program
  • It also has competitive international roaming rates

Does Consumer Cellular give free tablets?

No, I have not heard any news of consumer cellular giving away free tablets. They only tend to have limited-time offers, where you get partial discounts on various products, including tablets.